'Do something positive' - Clair on leading volunteers to help others
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
Days before the first lockdown in March 2020 a group of strangers gathered to help their community.
The East Bergholt Covid-19 Support Group has spent the past year helping people living in the village through the pandemic.
The effort has been spearheaded by Clair Brody.
"My businesses closed at the beginning of the pandemic," said Miss Brody.
"I thought at a time when you don't know what to do, do something positive."
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Miss Brody decided to find somewhere to volunteer but without success; what she did find was a group of likeminded people including Mark Hurley and Fiona Trott who also wanted to help.
After putting a call out on Facebook Miss Brody and the other volunteers met up and began to plan what they could do to help.
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“Having realised there wasn’t anything locally we realised we had to create something, so that’s what we did,” said Miss Brody.
“We all wanted to offer the same thing.”
The volunteers put up flyers to let people in the village know what help they would be offering and the new group was born.
“We started off with shopping and prescription collections for people who were shielding,” said Miss Brody.
“We recruited 80 volunteers within the community via an online form.
“There were support calls and any kind of pet care.”
If people in the village needed to go into hospital the group would help out by walking dogs.
“They were the main things we supported people with,” said Miss Brody.
“It was really good.”
Miss Brody believes the group’s work made a real difference to people.
“We were helping – at the height of the pandemic – about 50 people a week with their food and shopping deliveries,” she said.
“I think it made a huge difference to a lot of people; mostly to the families who were concerned about their elderly relatives and couldn’t get out to see them."
As well as these main areas there were also smaller projects which the group worked on.
“We had the food bank and the resources library,” said Miss Brody.
“St Mary’s Church in East Bergholt very kindly volunteered some space so we could have people donate and any kind of resources like books, DVDs games and any kind of crafting items.
“When people had exhausted their own things at home they could come into the church or we could get something to them."
“People were so generous,” said fellow volunteer Fiona Trott.
“But there wasn’t such a need at that time.”
The volunteers got to know people that they were helping very well.
“The volunteers paired up with the people they were helping,” said Mrs Trott.
“If anybody needed help they would go to their volunteer and that’s gone on for a long time.”
More widely the group has helped bring people together across East Bergholt.
Throughout the entire process the group had the support of their local community; East Bergholt Parish Council and St Mary’s Church were among the biggest supporters of their work.
With volunteers back at work the decision has been taken to bring the group to an end.
“We’ve been winding it down, we are not getting the same levels of calls at all,” said Miss Brody.
“Most people in our village have got their own setup and aren’t having problems with their online shopping anymore.
“We did look at how we could take it forward and what people would need but I think most people in our village are feeling okay.
“Those processes are still in place and will still be there in future if we need to regenerate it.”
"I'm very proud of the village for coming together," said Miss Brody.
"Working as a team to help people through an unknown time."
“It’s just good to see everyone working together and banding together to be honest,” said volunteer Mark Hurley.
Miss Brody thanked all of the volunteers who had been part of the group.
“It was an idea but one that we all executed together,” said Miss Brody.